Shapiro Chooses Extremism in Defunding Family Support Centers

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Over the last six months, members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly have been getting to know Gov. Josh Shapiro.

There was initially much to be hopeful about. At his inaugural address back in January, Gov. Shapiro laid out a vision for Pennsylvania, where “real freedom” can be achieved by making our Commonwealth a place “where everyone gets a shot and no one is left behind.”

Unfortunately, over the last two months, under the crucible of a budget impasse, Gov. Shapiro has decided that it’s time to start leaving Pennsylvanians behind, denying them the “real freedom” he pledged to deliver just six months ago.

Appeasing the state teachers’ union, he turned his back on a campaign promise and a bipartisan budget agreement to provide lifeline scholarships to Pennsylvania children stuck in failing schools so that they could seek educational alternatives. And in a boon to Planned Parenthood and similar organizations, his administration recently announced the ending of a nearly three-decade-long agreement with Real Alternatives, a pro-life organization that counsels pregnant women considering abortion.

Pennsylvania law has always sought to accommodate the Commonwealth’s apparent political divide – especially on the issue of reproductive health options. Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act has found a workable middle ground for the regulation of abortion, and lawmakers in past administrations have sought a similar middle ground when it comes to funding pregnancy resources and care.

Traditionally, the Commonwealth has funded women’s health centers like Planned Parenthood with taxpayer dollars while also funding pregnancy and parenting support services via an agreement with Real Alternatives, which administers these programs through a network of social services organizations, pregnancy support centers, adoption agencies, and maternity homes.

Earlier this spring, Rep. Paul Schemel and I hosted a hearing with the House Republican Policy Committee where we received testimony from pregnancy support centers and the clients they serve. The clear takeaway was that these centers can give an initial and medically accurate pregnancy confirmation while also providing significant resources during and after pregnancy to promote healthy and sustained families.

Unlike some taxpayer-funded organizations that provide a one-stop shop for pregnancy screening and abortion services, family resource centers supported by Real Alternatives provide an unbiased range of services and choices for pregnant women and families to choose from and feel supported in whatever decision they make.

The work of these centers is just beginning when a pregnant mother decides what is best for her and her unborn child. From there, the centers conduct parenting classes for mothers, fathers, and extended family. They provide after-birth resources and services that follow-up on life-affirming decisions. They offer emotional support and counseling for those who need it. And, for those who do not feel capable of being parents, they also provide and facilitate adoptions.

Some would have you believe that these organizations provide potentially harmful advice to pregnant women. Such untruthful insinuations border on the libelous. These organizations – whether supported by Real Alternatives or not – provide incredible services that stand, in fact, as real alternatives to abortion.

Providing those alternatives is not extreme: shutting them off is.

By ending the nearly 30-year-long state commitment to providing non-abortion pregnancy health services, Gov. Shapiro is choosing extremism and the interests of his campaign donors like Planned Parenthood at the expense of state funding for family support options, which the Commonwealth has provided for decades.

In 1992, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Bob Casey, Sr., gave an address entitled “Equal Justice for the Unborn: The Pennsylvania Experience.” While discussing how Pennsylvania had forged a middle ground on abortion, Casey also noted that, unlike most Pennsylvania Democrats, the national Democratic Party was “On the exact fringe of the far-left, radical, extreme, fringe of this issue.”

Flash forward 31 years, and that extremism – or, as Gov. Casey coined it, that “surrender to hopelessness” – has infiltrated the governor’s office in Pennsylvania.

Shapiro’s cancellation of the contract with Real Alternatives eradicates the middle ground on abortion that Pennsylvania had maintained over several decades. The pro-abortion fringe has won the day, with Gov. Shapiro holding the door open for them.

As a result, Pennsylvanians currently receiving care through Real Alternatives-associated service providers could see those services suddenly stop in January. Gov. Shapiro should work with the family and life-center community to ensure that family support continues as an alternative to the abortion-first approach taken by other organizations.

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